The “Royal Wood of Capo-di-Monte” Capodimonte Factory
Capodimonte Italian Porcelain History
There was an original manufactury, (factory), of Capodimonte porcelain, it was the Royal Factory, built in “The Royal Wood of Capo-di-Monte” in Naples, but today the name Capodimonte stands for a style of porcelain produced in the Neapolitan region of Italy, not for a single factory or maker.
The Royal factory was commissioned by the newly crowned king of Naples and Sicily, King Charles the VII, (aka Charles V of Sicily and Charles III of Spain), in 1743.
The origin of Capodimonte porcelain is said to have been Charles’ marriage to Maria Amalia, granddaughter of Augustus II, the Elector of Saxony, King of Poland. Amelia’s grandfather, Augustus, was the founder of Meissen porcelain in Germany, and it is said that Charles’ new wife encouraged him to create an Italian equivalent of Meissen – known for its high quality and fine artwork designs.
Development and production was originally started in parts of the Royal palace, but in 1738 or 1739 King Charles ordered a separate manufactury built on the same Royal Woods grounds as the palace. It was completed and commissioned in 1743.
The Royal Factory was in production until 1759, with its primary output being dinner and table-ware service pieces and sets; along with vases, trinket and snuff boxes, and walking cane handles. Rather than one set of artists producing a complete line, the original Royal Factory artists were specialized in their talents, and many pieces of early Capodimonte were noted, (and marked), as much for their artist creators as for the Capodimonte name.
- Snuff and trinket boxes were the specialty of Giovanni Sigismondo Fischer, Ferdinand Sorrentino, the only two miniaturists at the factory.
- Walking sticks were a specialty of a pair of Frenchmen; Pietro Chevalier and the Neapolitan Antonio de Laurentis, who mounted the walking stick knobs in gold.
- Giovani and Maria Caselli focused on landscape and flower designs
- Luigi Restile, Giuseppe della Torre, and Giacomo d’Avolio painted the designs with animals and battle scenes
- Scenes with villages and figures were painted by Nicola Senzapaura
- Giacomo Nani painted fruit and animals designs.
- Giuseppe Gricci modeled the early figurines produced
During this period the primary factory mark was a fleur-de-lis painted in underglaze blue, but there were several versions of the fleur-de-lis used, including a gold painted one and an incised mark in a circle.
Capodimonte early marks
capodimonte early marks
As mentioned, the primary output of the original Royal Factory was table serviceware, urns and snuff boxes. Trinkets, figurines, and purely decorative pieces came later.
From Italy to Spain
In 1759 Charles became King Charles III of Spain, and to protect his porcelain manufacturing secrets he ordered the Royal Factory in Naples destroyed and all the molds and equipment transferred to a Spanish porcelain factory in Buen Retiro, near Madrid, Spain. He also transferred his artists and chemists to the Spanish factory. Production of original Capodimonte porcelain continued here until 1771.
The Capo-di-Monte Mark used in Spain; 1759 – 1771
This blue “stylized” version of the original Capodimonte Fleur-de-Lys was used for production from the Spanish Buen Retiro factory near Madrid.
From Spain back to Italy
When his son Ferdinand succeeded him and became King Ferdinand IV of Naples, and then King Ferdinand I King of Sicilies, he commissioned a new royal factory in Naples at the Royal Villa at Portici. Capodimonte production resumed once again as Italian porcelain in 1772. Francesco Chiari and Francesco Celebrano were modelers at the new factory, along with the addition of Saverio Grue as a painter and sculptor.
Through all of the coming political turmoil in Italy and Spain, Capodimonte porcelain continued production at one or other royal factories. In 1807 a “Royal franchise” was granted to Poulard & Co. Poulard who continued Italian porcelain production of the Capodimonte-style under the Royal Impromptur in converted buildings belonging to the Church of Santa Maria della Vita.
Official “Royal Factory” production of Capodimonte ended in 1818 when Poulard & Co. sold their holdings to Claudio Guillard and Giovani Tourné which continued to use the Royal “N” and crown mark.
Guillard and Tourne’ sold their interests to the Genori family of Florance in 1834.
In 1896 the Ginori family combined interests with Societa Ceramica Richard of Milan, (identified as Richard Ginori on some porcelain marks), which continues to manufacture fine porcelain pieces in the Capodimonte-style until this day.
Where to find antique Capodimonte pieces and values:
Although there are many online antique shops selling Capodimonte porcelain, ebay has turned out to be the most reliable source for finding and pricing these collectibles. You will find that even dedicated antique shops and online sites refer to, and check, ebay first.
(See this note about the “New ebay” and the collectibles market)
See a chart and history of Capodimonte factory marks.
Examples of Capodimonte pieces available online:
Just click any image to see the pieces available right now.
Early Capodimonte Modellers and Artists:
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